Most people have heard of Alpe d’Huez and know that this is one of the great ski resorts in France and indeed the whole world.
What’s less well known, except to those who have already discovered this Mecca for snow sports (as well as road cycling!) in the southern French Alps is just how big and important it is.
It sits at the heart of one of France and Europe’s biggest ski regions, The Grand Domaine, linking the ski slopes above five resorts and two villages. The choices include Alpe d’Huez itself as well as four smaller destination resorts and those two villages, together offering a combined 250km of slopes, the upper mountain crowded by a glacier.
Then there’s the incredible lift-accessible vertical, for which The Grand Domaine boasts one of the greatest verts on the planet – part of a group of resorts that can offer more than 2,000 metres of ski-able descent. There are multiple ways down to enjoy all this non-stop vert, with several runs more than 10km long, including the incredible Sarenne piste, the longest black run on the planet and one that good intermediate skiers can easily tackle and enjoy.
One aspect of a ski holiday we don’t always think about, but love when we get it so long as the snow isn’t compromised, is sunshine. The Grand Domaine is also known as ‘L’ile au Soleil’ meaning ‘island in the sun’, due to its above-average sunshine record – an impressive average of 300 days of sunshine.
Add into the mix a choice of either a large and lively, friendly resort with hundreds of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants, or one of the smaller, more personal destination villages and resorts, all offering lots to do off the slopes as well, and you start to see why Alpe d’Huez Grand Domaine is a must visit destination for every skier.
The Ski Area
The Grand Domaine has something or everyone. Along with those wonderful long descents for intermediate skiers, there are also some famous on and off-piste options for advanced skiers, such as the infamous Tunnel run. Not just big in physical dimensions, you can also stay on the slopes for more hours on two days each week when The Grand Domaine’s XXL Skiing offer means that skiers can stay on the slopes until 8.30 pm, with lifts still running serving floodlit runs.
But the ski area is also amazing for beginners, with dedicated fun areas and learning zones, designed for skier development. There’s a wide choice of Telemix lifts combining gondola cabins and chairs on one cable to allow new skiers the luxury of getting to slightly higher slopes with ease.
The 250km of piste is served by a well-integrated lift system, and varied terrain to cater for all levels. It’s also worth knowing that the lift pass doesn’t just include the Alpe d’Huez Grand Domaine – you can choose to spend 2 days in nearby Les 2 Alpes if you wish, and a day in each of Montgenèvre, Puy St Vincent and even Italy’s Séstrière, all in the surrounding region.
Choose Your Resort
With five resorts and two villages to choose from in The Alpe d’Huez Grand Domaine, it doesn’t matter which resort you choose to stay in, whichever you pick you’ll still get amazing access to the vast Grand Domaine ski area
You can choose the big and buzzing Alpe d’Huez itself, the convenience of a smaller purpose-built resort like Vaujany or Oz 3300, or an intimate village that offers fast, crowd-free access to the whole region.
Although a long-established resort (it wasn’t purpose-built in the 1960s) this is one of the highest and snow-sure ski resorts in Europe, with a top lift height of 3330m.
Alpe d’Huez has grown into a large resort with great shopping and lots of facilities, but it has been well planned as it has grown through the past century so that ski slopes and lifts run down each side of the village, meaning you’re never far from a lift or ski run.
Apres fun lovers will be pleased to hear that Alpe d’Huez is one of the livelier French ski resorts with a great choice of bars and restaurants in all shapes and sizes. There are lots of apres ski activities on offer as well.
There’s been a Folie Douce, one of the famous bar-restaurant chains famed for its party atmosphere and cabaret acts up on the slopes for some years but now there’s a second Folie Douce in the centre of the resort.
Alpe d’Huez is also home to the huge Tomorrowland Winter festival, back from the 16th to 23rd of March 2024 this winter its 4th edition. The huge electro-dance music festival, the winter version of the famous Belgian event, brings together snow, music, skiing and snowboarding all with the spectacular backdrop of the Alpe d’Huez Grand Domaine.
There are lots of activities available here too, for both skiers and non-skiers to enjoy.
For skiers the Sarenne Sunset Ski is very special, giving you the chance to ski or board the world’s lonest black run in the early evening, just after the ski area closes to the public. You’ll take the last cable car up to the Pic Blanc at 3330m, enjoy a drink at the GUC refuge at sunset, with the instructor and ski patrol team and from here you’ll be guided down the Sarenne.
Another exciting option, new this season, is a brand new activity, tandem skydiving from 4000m out of a helicopter. Taking off in a helicopter from the resort’s altiport, with a fantastic view over the vast Grand Domaine below as you start your descent, you’ll have the choice of landing in Alpe d’Huez, or down in the valley below, in Bourg d’Oisans.
Vaujany has a long history as a traditional Alpine village with fabulous fast, high-capacity lifts that whisk those staying there to the best bits of The Grand Domaine before those in other resorts can get to them! There’s skiing for all abilities both locally and across the 250km of slopes of the Grand Domaine.
Vaujany has a particularly strong reputation with skiing families, having been awarded the ‘Famille Plus’ label, due to its excellent children’s facilities and family-friendly atmosphere.
It punches way above its weight in terms of off-slope facilities for a resort of its size with options including an indoor, Olympic size ice rink where you can have a quick skate or watch exciting ice hockey matches. There’s also a 500m² spa complete with a hammam, sauna, massage treatments and hydrotherapy sessions as well as a 25-metre swimming pool with an adjacent junior swimming area and paddling pools for children. Then there’s also a 4-lane bowling alley and a cinema too.
Activities offered here include a night groomer ride for a fondue in a mountain restaurant or there’s the ‘Téléca’Dîne’ which involves a gondola ride for a fondue evening dinner with great mountain views.
Back on the slopes in the daytime, any teens in your party will love Team Rider, a new programme of weekly lessons for teenagers to help them improve their freeride and freestyle skills with the local French ski school (ESF).
The resort of Oz 3300 is made up of 10 hamlets, located amongst fir trees, just above the village of Oz-en-Oisans. “10 hamlets” makes the resort sound a lot bigger than it is, each hamlet being a very intimate location indeed.
Again there’s access to the full 250km of slopes in the Grand Domaine from here and the resort is fully ski-in, ski-lout for maximum convenience. There are great beginner slopes by the resort and plenty for intermediates to enjoy too. You can ski through the centre of the village, passing the shops and restaurants to reach your accommodation.
Located just 55km south of Grenoble with easy access from the valley, and the hamlets located at altitudes ranging from 800 to 1350m, you can be on the slopes in about an hour after leaving the city.
There are lots of great activities to try at Oz 3300.
You could catch the last cable car to Dôme Rousses at 2800m to watch the sunset over the Eau d’Olle valley then make the 1450m descent on a red piste from Dôme Rousses back to the village wearing a headlamp and guided by mountain professionals.
You can also try ice climbing on a natural waterfall (beginners welcome, tuition available and equipment available to rent) or try a fun sliding sport like AirBoarding (a type of inflatable sledge), Trikke (basically a tricycle on skis), Dual (essentially two small snowboards strapped to your feet -yes that’s as tricky as it sounds but rewarding to master), Yooner (a type of sled on a ski), Evo Snow (scooters for snow) or Snowskate (a hybrid between a skateboard and snowboard). Or try them all, they’re all great fun on the snow. But if you want to go old school and slow things down a little, there are also two groomed trails for cross-country skiing in the surrounding area.
In summary, the Alpe d’Huez Grand Domaine is one of the world’s great ski areas offering the best of all ski worlds. Along with a huge ski region, one of the world’s biggest lift-served verticals and snow-sure, glacier-topped slopes the area also has an excellent sunshine record, great snowfall, varied terrain and so much more. The resorts within the area all have their own individual charm and each offers a great choice of accommodation,
Where to Stay?
Recommended Stay in Alpe d’Huez: Le Cristal de l’Alpe
Le Cristal de l’Alpe apartments are ideally located in the heart of Alpe d’Huez, just 200m from the ski slopes, and 50m from the closest shops. Facilities include a wellness area with an indoor heated pool, hot tub, sauna, steam room, and ski lockers with boot dryers.
Recommended Stay in Vaujanay: Les Edelweiss
Les Edelweiss apartments is a south-facing residence benefitting from maximum sunshine exposure ad a great location close to the main cable cars. The Residence offers spacious and well-equipped interiors. Facilities include a wellness area with a hot tub, sauna and steam room, as well as your own ski lockers and one underground parking space per apartment for those who self-drive or hire a car.
Recommended Stay in Oz 3300: Chalet des Neiges
The Chalet des Neiges is ideally located in the centre of the village, just a minute’s walk from the shops, bars and restaurants. A ski-in/ski-out residence, Chalet des Neiges is situated next to the ski school office and 100m from the nearest lifts. Facilities include an indoor heated swimming pool, hammam, sauna and on-site restaurant and bar.
Discover your ideal Alp d’Huez ski holiday, at peakretreats.co.uk
Peak Retreats are the French Alps ski holiday specialists, winner of the Telegraph Travel Awards Best Ski Operator 2023, they offer accommodation in over 70 mountain resorts; specialising in self-drive, self-catered ski holidays.
Main Image © Lionel Royal – Peak Retreats
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